With the Russia and Ukraine dilemma still fresh in public memory, this one off documentary brings a not so far-fetched idea back to life.
World War III: Inside the War Room sees ex-military and diplomatic leaders debate crisis situations when Russia threatens Estonia and Latvia. So far, so familiar. The fact that a quarter of Latvian’s population is Russian and a glance at the world map draws more similarities. The difference is that Latvia and Estonia, unlike Ukraine, are members of NATO.
In a darkened room these men and women debate, dissect and vote on scenarios designed to reflect the lead up to war. Videos with actors intersperse these discussions, reflective of the Ukraine footage we saw in the news.
Tough questions arose. Some historical, does the UK need America’s military support to be a credible deterrent? Or could we use a UN task force combined with the Latvian army to do the same thing? Others seemed more humanitarian and emotive, what happens if there is a hostage situation involving some of “our boys?” Some questions required more of a cultural understanding of the other side, such as how to offer them a way to back down without humiliation? How do you uphold the values for NATO? Is the threat of retaliation the best deterrent?
Initially it was a slow start but tensions soon emerged within the room increasing the pace. A lot was covered in the 60 minutes. Baroness Faulkner, the Lib Dem speaker, vehemently against military action, urged the team to be more sensitive to Putin’s sensitivities. General Sir Richard Shirreff, the ex-military commander, appeared in direct contrast calling for “unconditional surrender” and the waving of the “white flag” by Russia. The conflict made for good TV.
I enjoyed this show, but the talk about nuclear weapons made me query how realistic this scenario really was. Would everyone jump to using nuclear so quickly? It felt a bit like adults playing a big game. Perhaps it is a game, on the grandest scale. One side must strategise and out manoeuvre the other. I hope we never have to find out.